Sales Secret: 'Why' Is More Important Than 'What'

Rather than "tell what" you're selling, "show why" they're buying.

Lately, I've been reviewing dozens of sales messages and have discovered a common theme.  Most sales messages, whether in emails, presentation or websites, are ineffective because they "tell what" rather than "show why." Let me explain.

Average sales messages tell what the seller would like the customer to believe.  The problem with such messages is that the customer has no idea whether these statements are true.


  • "We are reliable and trustworthy."
  • "Our product saves you money."
  • "We have the best customer service."


  • "Our customer base includes IBM and Coke."
  • "Independent studies show our customers save 20 percent."
  • "Our service team has won two industry awards."

The same is true when describing products. Average sales messages tell what the product does or is.  Such messages force the customer to figure out how the factoid in the message applies to the customer's own concerns and own situation.

By contrast, great sales messages show why the product is (or should be) important to the customer.


  • "Our software automates supply chains."
  • "Our marketing experts help build brand awareness."
  • "Our gadgets have dual framistats."


  • "Our software makes your products available for sale 10% faster."
  • "Our experts can help you double sales by building brand awareness."
  • "Dual framistats mean your gadget will work even when dropped."

If you want to increase sales by having a great sales message, go through all your marketing and sales materials and convert your tell what messages to show why messages.

Yes, it IS that simple.

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IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Sep 27, 2013


Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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